Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Small Victory

This morning Faith was bringing a banana, a big glass of ice, and a treasured Starbucks frap up to my room. Isn’t she the greatest? What a sweetie! Well, when she got to my door she put the tray down and knocked. I opened the door and she tried to pick up the tray again. She spilled it all. It all went airborne. Ice everywhere. The frap flying across the floor. Could this be the unpardonable sin? No ice. No frap (in a place where fraps, when they are available, cost more than in the States...if you can believe that). No breakfast? Then I did the unthinkable. I said “It’s okay honey, let me help you clean it up. No problem. Don't worry about it. Thank you so much for bringing to me.” No anger, no sinful reaction, no over reaction. And not only did I not respond incorrectly. I didn’t feel incorrectly. I wasn’t hiding my anger. I wasn’t hiding my frustration. I didn’t have any. I only had compassion for her and her predicament. She was trying to do something sweet and to do it well and it flopped. Now my appropriate reaction might not sound like a big deal to those of you who are more spiritual than me or who haven’t had to deal with the sins of anger and frustration in your lives. But it was a spiritual victory for me. God showed me in that moment how far He has brought me. I was so grateful to Him for the fruit of the Spirit that He is filling me with as I depend on Him. Now let me tell you I have a long way to go on my spiritual journey. I have not arrived. I have plenty of failures (read: sin) in areas where I know when I blow it. Then let’s not even talk about all the sin that I have that hasn’t been revealed to me yet. The closer I grow to my Lord the more I realize how far from Him (in character) I am. Yet He is faithful. He is completing the work that He started in me. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for the fruit He brings forth in my life when I know that my own reaction if He left me to myself would be so different. I thank Him for the small victories.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Prayer Day

Yesterday was a great day all around. We had a wonderful time worshipping our Savior at church, and participating in the baby dedication I wrote about below. Then we came home and I made a taco salad. Joe and I and the two youngest took an hour nap then it was off to our monthly Prayer Day with our fellow SIM missionaries. I always enjoy Prayer Day. It's great to get together and spend time praying for one another, for our ministries and for Bolivia. Two of the requests that my group prayed for were two women. One has gone back to a life of prostitution after having been mentored by a missionary and out of the lifestyle for a while. She has three children. The missionary sharing this story said she talked with a fellow missionary who works with prostitutes and on average it takes 6 times of 'quitting' prostitution before the woman really stays out of it for good. The other woman has gone back to an abusive relationship. Physical abuse is very common here in Bolivia. I often see women with black eyes, broken noses, various bruises and broken bones. These are some of the kinds of requests that we pray for at Prayer Day. I love that the motto of SIM is "By Prayer" and I especially love that they mean it. On Prayer Day we get to spend two hours just worshipping and praying together. What a blessing! I was going to take my camera and take pictures to post here, but it had a dead battery after our big Saturday. Maybe next time! I'm thankful to be a part of a missions family that prays together.

The Best Baby Decication Ever

Yesterday there was a baby dedication service at church. It was special. No, I didn't have any babies to dedicate, unfortunately. I've been to plenty of baby dedications in my time. I especially enjoy when Joe and I are dedicating one of our children to the Lord and committing to do our best to raise them to love Him. I also enjoy the ones that my hubby officiates. I love it when he lays his hands on the little ones and prays for them. However this baby dedication was special for none of the above reasons. This one touched me deeply because the two little ones being dedicated were orphans. They live in the orphanage that was started by and is supported by our church. In fact the orphanage is on the second story above where we have our Sunday service. One of these little 'honeys' was only 2 weeks old. A little tiny thing. I prayed fervently for these two and will continue to pray for them. I pray that they will come to know the Lord at an early age and will grow to love Him above all else. I pray that they will know the love found in a family that serves our Lord. I pray that they will be able to deal with the rejection that comes from being abandoned by the ones that are supposed to love you more than any other. Since they have no parents I will take on the responsibility to pray for them. I will take that responsibility seriously. Will you join me in praying in faith for these little ones and the other 23 or so that live with them in the orphanage? Pray too for those who care for them that they would show Christ's love to some who desperately need to feel it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Our Saturday

Today as we went to the market we took the camera to share with you where we shop each Saturday.

One of the two main streets of the market. Each Saturday morning the street is transformed into a market and by sundown it is turned back into a street.

One of the 'wheel barrow boys' that helps us carry our groceries.

The Produce Section

More Fruit

The "Payless Shoes" part of the market

The "Zales Jewerly Store"

The "Petsmart" of the market

Of course Joe is in the "Barnes and Noble" section of the market...probably looking for some good coffee.

My favorite part of the market....the "Flower Shop"

The "Blockbuster" of the market

Another "Pet Shop" with a restaurant beside it<

Another restaurant

The Meat Section

Check out the cow tongues

The "Safeway" of our market

The "Beds, Baths, and Beyond"

After the market we decided to check out on of the parks here in the city where you must pay to enter. Since you have to pay to enter they are much safer than neighborhood parks...much fewer sharp metal edges and less broken glass. :>)

Look at how tall this slide is!! That's a long way down for Patience. I even tried it.

Fun on the Merry Go Round

Me and David

Faith and Hope surveying their kingdom

The older boys on pedal go-karts... you can ride go-karts and exercise at the same time.

David showing his tricks on the skateboard he got for his birthday.

Caleb getting risky with the skateboard. (Big surprise...not!)

So guess who had to get in on it all!

Joy and Patience on the swings

Ben riding a dinosaur

Josh in good ole red, white and blue

The ice cream lady made a big sale with us

It was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Everyone was thirsty (see all the empty cups being thrust toward me?) but I took over the bottle. :>)

On a final note, we just got a new bed. When we moved here we decided to get a queen sized bed since we didn't know how much room we would have and also since Joe says that it doesn't matter how big or small the bed is I sleep right up against him and he has no room. :>) Anyway, we gave Jake our queen sized bed and bought a king sized one. We didn't buy a frame or the box spring (which really wasn't a box spring, but only a platform) since it cost $500 more. So right now we're sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Our room is pretty small so the mattress virtually takes up the entire room. Eventually we will get a bed frame or headboard/footboard, but right now I don't mind sleeping on the floor at all. That is I didn't mind until I was typing this blog entry and Jake came and told us about the huge scorpion that was in his shower. I'm attaching pics of it too. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but it was a good 3 inches long (at least according to Joe, I didn't want personal history with it). Now it's dead, but I'm sure I'll think about it tonight when I crawl in my bed on the floor.

P.S. One more day passed before I finished this entry. Saturday night I did wake up a few times thinking about the above scorpion. Then, Sunday night when I was going to bed there was a huge spider on the wall of my room. More and more I'm not liking the idea of sleeping on the floor. :>( I love what Mrs. Gregory (Steve and Susie's mom) told me after her many years on the mission field. She said people used to say to her "I could never be a missionary because I don't like spiders, bugs, scorpions and snakes." She would just smile, but she said she was thinking "Like I do?! I don't like them either! I'm not here because I love spiders and snakes, but because this is where God called me!". Well, I don't like them either, but it's just one of the small sacrifices we are called to make in order to do what God has called us to. Last night Joe prayed for me to be able to sleep well and not think too much about the creepy crawlies. God answered and I slept fine. This week, however, I'll be looking for a good fumigator though. :>) Any names, Angie?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Beautiful Days in Coch

The last two days have been the most beautiful days I've seen in Cochabamba so far. The weather was gorgeous!! This is the city of 'eternal spring' and so the weather is usually great year round, however the weather on these past two days has been exceptional. I hope the rest of the spring is this great! It is spring for us now since we live in the southern hemisphere. This year will be our first Christmas in summer. Maybe we could actually use bikes that kids get for Christmas. :>)

On another note, I wanted to take a moment and thank those of you who have been praying for my language acquisition. Though I have a ways to go, I believe I am turning the corner or scaling the wall as my mom said . I feel God answering your prayers on my behalf. Yesterday was a good day at school even after I stayed out too late the night before with a fellow missionary and didn't really wanna make my 8:00 a.m. class. Lorna and I went out for dinner and stayed at the restaurant from about 7:00 until 11:00 . Late dinners that take the entire evening are common here in Bolivia as they are in many other places in the world. Most restaurants don't open for dinner until 7:00 and they don't mind if you stay at the same table all night. Dinners, friends, and family were made to be enjoyed. You must find the waiter to ask for the check even after 3-4 hours. No rush get you out so that the next people can use your table. I love that about living here. Anyway, Thursday was a good day at school and with my language helper too (think: personal tutor who let's me practice my Spanish with her) even after the late night before. My desire to speak is gaining momentum I think. Even yesterday at lunch a Bolivian friend said that she thought we were learning to speak well. She said that she knows another ex-pat family that's been here a year and aren't speaking as much as we are. That was encouraging. More than anything I just feel the Lord's presence with me carrying me through it all. I know that He is giving me the desire and the ability to carry out this task to which He has called me. I believe that He will continue to enable me. He is answering your prayers for me, so once again THANK YOU for praying. Keep it up!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Guest Blog From My Hubby

Here's an article that Joe wrote for a homeschool newsletter and I thought it was great (of course) and wanted to post it here. Soon I'll have another guest blog about the futbol game he went to with Jake, Caleb and Ben.

Empty Ice Trays

When I was growing up, my dad rarely lost his temper. However, I recently remembered one occasion when it happened. We lived in Texas, and dad came in after working outside in the hot Texas summer sun. He went to the cabinet, got out a glass, picked up the pitcher of tea, and opened the freezer. In a sudden fit of rage, he yelled (something that I have probably blocked from my memory J) and threw six empty ice trays across the room. He could not believe that people would put empty ice trays in the freezer! Why would you do that? I distinctly remember shrinking down into my chair, but in my 10 or 11 year old mind I thought, “Dad, you are overreacting just a little. It’s only an ice tray. Give it a rest.” (yes, it was disrespectful, but I remember thinking it).

Now, as a 44 year old man I understand. You see, history does repeat itself. In the States, you live in the age of ice makers. Here, we live in the age of ‘probably don’t have a freezer but if you do, you have ice trays’. We have ice trays. We have a lot of ice trays. The freezer on our fridge serves NO other purpose but to hold our ice trays. That is it. This is necessary because Denise, much to dental chagrin, eats ice like it is cotton candy. It just disappears into your mouth. She is an addict. Not only do our ice trays have to keep up with Denise’s vice of ice eating…they also have to furnish our family of 11 with ice for our tea, water and occasional coke.

So, you would think that our kids…who also like ice…would by now have discovered a rule of physics. It is this: Water has to be at 32 degrees or less in order to become a solid. If you want ice, then you have to put water in the ice tray and put the tray in the freezer. Now, this isn’t a difficult task. It is one that even our five year old can accomplish with minimum effort. We keep a gallon of filtered water (we can’t drink tap water) on the counter in a thermos with a spigot. You put the ice tray under the spigot, open it and in 10 seconds you have a tray full of potential ice. Now, all you need to do is put it in the freezer. Simple. It isn’t rocket science or homeschool math.

But day after day….literally ALMOST EVERY DAY, I go to the freezer to get ice and all I find are empty ice trays…in the stinking freezer! I have, in the role of my own father (without the rage and baseball pitch) queried my kids. “Why in the world can you not simply take ten seconds and refill the ice tray when you use it? Why do you insist on just taking one cube, rather than empty the tray into the bucket and refilling it? Why, when you know that you have taken the last tray, do you put…or leave…it in the freezer?

Today….I had already planned on writing this article…and as a real-life illustration, I opened the freezer to get some ice for a drink. There was not a single cube of ice! There was no ice in the bucket, and no ice in the trays. Now, remember, all of the ice trays and the bucket were in the freezer. We had plenty of ‘cold air cubes’, but no ice, and the thing about it is that you don’t know it until you need it. Ice trays look good until you pick them up and find that they have no ice.

Here is my question? What good is an empty ice tray? What does it do when it isn’t fulfilling its purpose of making ice? Why would anyone put an empty ice tray in the freezer….a molded plastic container full of potential pleasure now only taking up space and producing frustration? Well, my kids have one of two answers. Either they, like the famous Sergeant Schultz of ‘Hogan’s Heroes’….”Know nothing, see nothing!” They didn’t even know we had ice trays…or a freezer…or glasses. J Or, the other answer is, “I didn’t know it was empty. I just took one cube.”

Empty Ice Trays.
Empty Ice Trays..
Empty Ice Trays…you know what? Empty Ice Trays are unfortunately a great word picture for many Christians.

I believe that sometimes God looks at us and thinks…why are you doing that? Why are you satisfied with empty potential when you could have spirit-filled purpose? Why are you allowing yourself to simply take up space, instead of bringing pleasure to the One Who made you? Why are you frustrated with life, when God created you to have passion in life?

Well, we don’t know how it happened. We just took one cube at a time. This cube was taken by the effort that homeschooling our kids requires. Then another cube was removed by the pain a friend caused. The third cube, and then the fourth and fifth one, were jerked out of our heart by financial pressures. Then there are the cubes that just fell out during the course of life and melted unused on the floor. Bitterness melted the ninth…and so on.

We never even knew that our tray…our hearts…were empty. They still looked shiny to people from a distance. Our lives look good to those across the auditorium, or on the phone, or in the other office. We appear to be doing exactly what we should.

But…when we examine our insides…or God lovingly picks us up when it is time for our purpose to be realized…we discover that we are shiny, plastic Christians. There is no substance in our lives.

And the sad part is this. Refilling is so easy that even your five year old believer can do it. It is even easier than filling an ice tray. We simply look to Jesus. We confess the sin that melted our cube…or we ask for help to replace the hole that life drained out of us. Jesus hears and sees us, and then the Holy Spirit of the Living God will come into us and fill us. He will abide in us, and we will abide in Him…and when that happens (to leave the ice metaphor), we will bear much fruit and glorify the Father.

My fellow homeschooler…your children are like me in my home. They can see the reality in the tray. They know whether you are empty or filled. Are you, right now, full of the Holy Spirit and bringing glory to Christ in the way that you educate, train, and respond to the life situations of homeschooling? Or is there another ice tray flying across the room in frustration?

Living on the mission field has given me plenty of opportunities to have my heart emptied…so I know what I am talking about. Jesus is enough, and He wants to us to be full…not just when we are empty…but anytime something removes a single cube. And life is too short….and people are too important…to live it on empty.

Until Next Month,
Joe…A Proud Member Of The Frozen Chosen
At least for this article

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Home from a Much Needed Mini Vacation

We just returned home from a short trip to Santa Cruz. We spent four nights in a hotel there. It was a nice break from our routine and all of our schooling (homeschooling and language schooling). I am enjoying language school and of course I enjoy homeschooling the kids, but you know how it was time to take a rest. Unlike most of my homeschooling friends in the States we started back to school in June so we could finish up last year's school year, then we started right in to this school year in July. So, we've been at it a while. Our mini-vacation was a great time for all of us. I know that the kids enjoyed it because Faith said she wished the hotel was only ten minutes away so we could go back (in reality it's a bit more than a 10 hour drive for us, but more on that later). Then this morning Patience asked if we were going back to our 'other house' (the hotel) because she really liked it. The other kids had glowing reports as well. We spent time together playing games, watching movies, walking around the town, swimming, biking and just relaxing. It was grand. Santa Cruz is only 280 miles away but it takes a good 10 hours to get there by car since it's over the Andes Mountains. The first 80 miles took us half of the time (a bit more than 5 hours) since the road is winding with dangerous curves and up steep inclines. Of course there are very few guard rails but there are literally hundreds of shrines and crosses along the road where people died. These served us as a reminder to take it easy. There are several places where busloads of people either went off the side of the mountain or had a head on collision. I pray that I don't ever need to take the bus even if it does cost only $10.

We were a day late getting away since we were waiting for Joe's international driver's license from the States. There are stops along the way where they check to make sure your vehicle really does belong to you and isn't stolen and also they check for drugs. So, we had to make sure Joe had a driver's license and also that we had the title to our truck. The license arrived in the mail on Thursday and we left on Friday with a prayer that we had all our necessary paperwork in order. Sure enough at the 4 or 5 stops to check it we passed with flying colors. There were also many (6 or so) toll booths along the way. At most of these we weren't charged more toll, the attendants only checked our ticket to see if we had paid the toll at a previous stop. Here is how many of these stops worked: We were stopped by a chain across the road held up by a guard. We would stop either in the road (actually a high way if you can call it that....It's the main road between two major cities) or beside it. We would then walk up to a booth (read: some sort of shack where there were police and posters of scantily clad women) and the police would check to see where we were from, where we were going and check our paperwork. Then we would get back in the car, the guard would lower the chain and we would drive a few more yards to a toll booth and stop again to have our toll ticket checked. I don't know why they couldn't do this at the same stop, but no it had to be a few yards further down the road. Now, many of these toll booths are like you see in the states where you pull up to the booth and you reach out your window and pay the attendant. No, these are booths BESIDE the road where you must pull over and park and walk to the window and have the attendant (in a shack with photos of scantily clad women check) the toll ticket and tell you it's okay to keep on driving. Sometimes these shacks were hard to see. Many times we only knew we were supposed to stop because we saw people in the middle of the road selling fried fish, oranges, juice, toilet paper, etc. (no kidding...amenities for your journey). I'll attach a pic so you can see the bathroom stops along the way. Because they looked like they do, we were prepared in advance. We took a potty chair for the girls and the boys just used the wide open spaces. Johnson Assare (our Ghanaian friend) told us that Africa has the largest bathroom in the world (the great outdoors), but now I see that ours in South America are just as big.
It was a beautiful drive. We could see the landscape change along our journey. We started here in Coch and went up even higher into the Andes where farmers farm with oxen and hand plows almost to the very tip tops of the mountain on steep inclines. We drove through the fact we could see the clouds below us. Then as we drove down the other side we went through the rich green jungle filled banana crops and houses (shacks really) on stilts. At one point Joe said we should let the kids out and let them hack their way through the jungle and see how thick it really is. I said that they would get bitten by a snake. Sure enough as we rounded the next curve there was a 4-5 foot snake in the road.

We found out once we arrived at the hotel that they didn't have us on record as having a reservation. Thankfully we brought along our email confirmation and even though the hotel was sold out, they found us a room. Usually the weather in Santa Cruz this time of year is very hot...approaching 100 degrees recently. Everyone had told us how hot we were going to be, so I only packed us shorts and t-shirt kinds of clothes. Of course it rained almost everyday we were there and was pretty chilly too. We didn't care. We had a great time anyway. We swam in the rain in the semi-heated pool and sat in the almost hot tub. :>) The first day we were there we walked around the main plaza in town. It was chilly that day and as I said we only took shorts. So we donned our shorts (that we haven't worn since we've been in Bolivia) and walked around. Our teens said "We look like tourists!" since most everyone else was wearing jackets and pants. We found this amusing since we ALWAYS look like tourists in Bolivia....for pity's sake, WE'RE GRINGOS!! However, we did stand out even more than usual on that day. It was actually nice that it wasn't too hot while we were there. We all had fun and no one got sunburned...until the trip home that is. On the way home it was plenty sunny and hot. I sat on the side of the car that had the sun coming in the window and got sunburned from my upper thigh to my knee and some on my arm. Below is a picture I took but it was taken more than 48 hours later so the difference isn't as pronounced as it was in real life.

Also on the way home I drove for the first time in over 5 months. It was fun!! It was the first time I've driven a standard probably close to 20 years. That was fun too. Passing big truck on mountain curves was exciting, but I didn't drive for too long because I was worried about the police check points and not having a license. It was a good time while it lasted though. I didn't know how much I missed it. I thought I wouldn't drive here in Bolivia for our first term because the traffic is so crazy. Another missionary told us you have to think like a school of fish. That's the way traffic moves...not in lanes, but like a school of fish. Also, they don't stop for red lights. Never on Sundays on not faithfully on weekdays. But they DON'T turn right on red (go figure) and they don't run yellow lights. The reasoning behind not running yellow lights is because the opposite traffic is already going and in the middle of the intersection by the time that you have the red and they have the green, so if you don't stop on yellow, you will get broadsided. :>) It's just a lot of honk and go. The biggest vehicle, the bravest one, or the person who cares the least about damage to their car has the right of way. At one main intersection in Santa Cruz there was a place where 6 lanes of traffic went down to 2 as you went through a stop light. There were no warnings, no rules of merging, etc. It was just "you guys work it out" and everybody does. The number one driving rule in Bolivia is don't make eye contact, pretend like you don't see anyone and just go. I can't wait to get my license!

If You Would Like To See A Slide Show Of Our Trip, Click This Link